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1998 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse

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There were no major changes in the prevalence of the use of inhalants, hallucinogens or non-medical use of psychotherapeutics for those age 12 and older between 1997 and 1998. However, there was decrease in past year heroin use from 0.3 percent to 0.1 percent. Also, the rate of current inhalant use among youths age 12-17 decreased from 2.0 percent to 1.1 percent, and the rate of current heroin use among adults age 35 and older decreased from 0.2 percent to 0.0 percent.

Estimates of heroin use from the NHSDA are considered very conservative due to the probable underreporting and undercoverage of the population of heroin users. Estimates of lifetime heroin prevalence have ranged from 2.3 million in 1979 to 1.7 million in 1992, 2 million in 1997, and 2.4 million in 1998. The estimated number of current heroin users was 68,000 in 1993, 117,000 in 1994, 196,000 in 1995, 216,000 in 1996, 325,000 in 1997, and 130,000 in 1998. The estimated number of past year heroin users decreased significantly from 597,000 in 1997 to 253,000 in 1998. A ratio adjustment procedure that partially adjusts for underreporting and undercoverage results in a similar trend but estimates that are higher (See Appendix 2, "Estimation of Heavy Drug Use").

Among lifetime heroin users, the proportion who had ever smoked, sniffed, or snorted heroin increased from 55 percent in 1994 to 75 percent in 1998. At the same time, the proportion who had ever used heroin with a needle remained unchanged (49 percent in 1994, and 54 percent in 1998)(Figure 10). This trend toward non-injection use of heroin is also evident among heroin abusers entering publicly-funded treatment programs. In 1992, 77 percent of heroin treatment admissions were injectors. By 1997, the proportion had dropped to 68 percent.

The rate of current use of hallucinogens did not change between 1997 and 1998 (0.8 percent in 1997 and 0.7 percent in 1998). The rate of use increased from 1992 to 1995, but remained steady from 1995 to 1998.

For inhalants, the overall rate of past month use has remained steady since 1991 (between 0.3-0.4 percent from 1991 through 1998).

In 1998, the estimated number of persons who have tried methamphetamine in their lifetime was 4.7 million (2.1 percent of the population). The 1998 estimate was similar to the 1997 estimate (2.5 percent) and the 1994 estimate (1.8 percent). Other data sources have indicated a substancial increase in methamphetamine use during the 1990s. For example, based on SAMHSA's Treatment Episode Data Set, there has been an increase in methamphetamine admissions to publicly-funded treatment programs from 14,000 in 1992 to 53,000 in 1997.

The estimated prevalence rate of nonmedical use of psychotherapeutics (tranquilizers, sedatives, analgesics, or stimulants) in the past month for those 12 and older was 1.2 percent in 1997 and 1.1 percent in 1998, not a statistically significant change.

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This page was last updated on June 01, 2008.